Tag Archives: privacy

The expectation of privacy in America

18 Feb

I was eating dinner with my best friend a few nights ago, and somehow the topic of privacy came up. I can’t remember how or why we started talking about it, but the conversation itself was interesting, and as she has no experience or education in journalism, advertising or marketing, some of the things I said to her shocked her.

I think what got us truly started on the topic was when we started to discuss the “right to be forgotten” laws in Germany. For anyone who doesn’t know, this law basically says that you have the right not to be included in web searches, and to be erased from the internet if you want to be. Since it passed, people in Germany, and across the EU, have been suing Google to have themselves removed from web searches. We then started to compare foreign privacy laws to those of the United States.

It really should come as no shock that there is no expectation of privacy in this country. Everything you do – every purchase, every mouse click, every social media account – is monitored, and the data is stored and used to understand how you, the consumer, thinks and acts, and hopefully predict your next purchase or vote. Every piece of data is of value to someone. But it doesn’t end there.

In the United States revenge porn is legal, despite it being morally despicable. The only state so far to even touch the issue is California.

The point is there is a difference between the information we offer willingly, and those we don’t. That is why I’m confused when I hear industry professionals talking about balancing big data with privacy concerns. They aren’t taking any information that wasn’t willingly given. The information and the data is there to be collected, analyzed, understood and translated into something actionable – because of that shoe purchase on Zappos, or that restaurant review on Yelp, or any other myriad of things that you did online.

Basically what it comes down to is this: there is no privacy in America anymore. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing (I’m not saying it’s a good thing either). In fact, I’m quite indifferent on the matter.

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What’s the deal with ‘Ello?

17 Oct

Dubbed the “anti-Facebook”, ‘Ello is a new social network that is free of advertisers. According to their manifesto, “You are the product that’s bought and sold”. And honestly, that should not come as a shock to you.

Although it is sad that this fact is so blatant these days, it’s honestly no surprise that we, the consumer, have also become the commodity. And Facebook is not to blame. Ever since our online activity has become tractable, companies have used that information to target, remind, and serve us ads whenever and wherever possible.

I remember a few years ago, my mom kept asking me why she would always see the same Nordstroms ad no matter where she was looking online. My first question to her was, “Were you recently on the Nordstroms site? Did you buy anything?” She told me she didn’t, she was just looking at shoes. I explained to her that Nordstroms saw that, and they want her to come back and finish the purchase. So how is this any different from Facebook serving you ads from the sites you visit? Aren’t they, essentially, just another website?

Advertisers have tremendous technology that tracks every click you make, every online purchase, and every abandoned cart. With all this in mind, I honestly don’t see what the big deal is with ‘Ello (I should also mention that I don’t quite care for Facebook either). Facebook is a business, whose function is to make money, just like any other business. Yes, we could all talk about the “good old days” before it went public, but what’s the point in that?

Although the stand that ‘Ello is taking is admirable, at this point it’s too late. Online privacy is essentially non-existent, and will probably never exist again. The sooner this is accepted, the sooner we can move on.

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